Amazon investigates claims staff are leaking data for bribes

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Employees are offering confidential information to sellers, according to report

Amazon is investigating claims that employees have taken bribes for leaking confidential sales information, particularly in China, as it battles to stamp out fake reviews and other seller scams.

Employees are offering internal data, via intermediaries, to independent merchants selling their products on the site to help them increase their sales in return for payments, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing sellers, brokers and people familiar with internal investigations.

The practice violates company policy and is common in China, where the number of sellers is soaring and Amazon employees are paid relatively small salaries.

Amazon confirmed it was conducting a thorough investigation of the claims. We hold our employees to a high ethical standard and anyone in violation of our code faces discipline, including termination and potential legal and criminal penalties, it said.

In addition, we have zero tolerance for abuse of our systems and if we find bad actors who have engaged in this behaviour, we will take swift action against them, including terminating their selling accounts, deleting reviews, withholding funds and taking legal action.

Brokers for Amazon employees in Shenzhen are offering internal sales data and reviewers email addresses, as well as a service to delete negative reviews and restore banned Amazon accounts, in exchange for payments ranging from $80 (61) to more than $2,000, the Journal reported.

It said Amazon was also investigating incidents in the US where employees were suspected of accepting bribes.

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About half of the items sold on Amazon come from third-party sellers, who compete with Amazons own service. In the UK, they include well-known chains such as Debenhams and Clarks, but also a legion of small traders.

The online company started an internal investigation in May after Eric Broussard, Amazons vice-president who oversees international marketplaces, was alerted to the practice in China. The company has since shaken up its management in China.

The Journal said independent brokers had used the Chinese messaging service WeChat to approach Amazon employees.

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